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This is a submission for the Anatomically Correct Series

Residing in South Africa, the Grootslang is a creature of African folklore being depicted commonly as:

  • Being 37 to 40 ft long
  • having a cobra like body
  • having elephant like tusks
  • having a hood which resembles elephant ears (optional)
  • being a blueish gray color
  • having a least elephant level intelligence (optional)
  • primary live in caves
  • horde shiny objects

Given these characteristics, what species could the Grootslang have evolved from, and what evolutionary pressures would lead to such a creature?

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  • $\begingroup$ Did you want to add in "aquatic lifestyle"? That seems to be a major factor. $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Feb 19 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ I love the South African language. Only they would name such a creature a Bigsnake. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Feb 19 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm well i mean there not wrong $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Feb 19 at 23:11
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Titanoboa

There's no snake nowadays which is close to 40ft. long, and even the closest one to it, a record held by the reticulated python, isn't fully substantiated. But, if we turn back the clock a good 65 million years, back when everything was bigger, we find a snake very close to the specification in question - the Titanoboa, a literal giant snake. Now, the reason for a snake this size is very simple - as a boa, it's a constrictor snake and thus needs to be big enough to wrap around and constrict its prey. And since this is 65 million years ago, back when everything was bigger, it's prey was bigger as well.

The blue coloring is simple enough - camouflage. You see, evidence suggests these snakes liked to live in the water, especially warm, swampy areas. (It needed heat, as it's cold-blooded.) Unfortunately, this leaves the caves out of question, unless we changed the caves themselves - perhaps these are very damp caves home to natural hot springs, or something of that nature.

Intelligence isn't really possible. It's head isn't big enough, not to mention that there's nothing a snake could really do with intelligence. There's no reason for natural selection to favor smarter snakes.

The tusks are the largest problem. As a titanoboa is a boa, it constricts its victims, and doesn't need fangs of any sort to poison it's prey. Not to mention that the tusks would just get in the way of the snake trying to move around and/or unhinging its jaw to swallow large prey. Not to mention that tusks aren't something reptile generally have. The closest thing that a boa has to evolve into tusks are teeth, except there's no reason why those teeth would evolve into tusks.

I've done some reading up on Grootslangs, and I've noticed something interesting - the original legend doesn't say that the snake has elephant characteristics - it's just elephant sized. So, given the impracticality of such a thing evolving, I'd argue that this is just a Titanoboa living in the modern day, and leave it at that.

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No, not really.

Except for the elephant tusks, high intelligence (read: language), shiny stuff gathering, or aquatic life it sounds like a titanoboa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanoboa

"Titanoboa (/tiˌtɑːnoʊˈboʊə/) is an extinct genus of very large snakes that lived in what is now La Guajira in northeastern Colombia. They could grow up to 12.8 m (42 ft) long and reach a weight of 1,135 kg (2,500 lb)"

Tusks require the kinds of teeth that only mammals have,differentiated teeth - canines, molars, incisors, etc. Reptiles have teeth all of one type. They are loosely attached by comparison and often fall out when feeding, to be replaced by new ones - they constantly grow new teeth throughout their lives.

Language requires a social structure, or at the very least a community to share that language in. Sounds like our dude is a loner. Language also requires the energy to power a brain that can do all those things. Snakes are exothermic.

Shiny stuff gathering requires complex mating rituals.

Now, there have been plenty of large serpent like creatures in the water. So, that one is fine.

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  • $\begingroup$ Reptile teeth also have nerves, they just get absorbed before shedding. its really no different than humans loosing baby teeth. reptiles just keep growing new sets. even arcodont reptiles have nerves in their teeth. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 20 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ @John thanks, corrected $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Feb 20 at 0:41

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